Under the Surface at the Project team meeting


Another interesting presentation at the EVA21 conference related to behaviours in project meetings and what is behind them. We have all come across project team members exhibiting challenging behaviour and this session explored what may lie behind this. Jack Pinter arranged a demonstration of this in a session with a scenario played by two professional actors where the project manager and project sponsor are having problems in agreeing a joint approach to project issues.

Behaviours are underpinned by thoughts, feelings, values and needs of those involved in the meeting. This is why establishing shared values on a project and returning to these at key decision points is very important.

In the scenarios, this was illustrated in different ways by replaying the scene allowing the participants to voice all their innermost thoughts. This was not a wise idea as the challenging situation had let to a lot of misunderstanding between them and each held the other responsible. Then the scene was replayed with each actor giving full vent to their feelings. If you ever had any fears where this would lead to, they would have been realised in this performance with both participants reverted to screaming toddlers (much to the delight of the audience).

The audience were then asked to identify what values the participants seemed to be acting on. Values such as ‘I must be perfect’ or ‘I must have total control’ were seen to be getting in the way of effective communication. Other values such as ‘no blame’, ‘equality’ and ‘respect’ could be used instead to find a more effective way forward. In the final playing of the scene, the participants in the meeting were asked to voice what  their needs were in moving forward and also to acknowledge the needs of the other participant. It was seen that even when one of the participants did this, it moved the other away from an intransigent position and allowed a more positive outcome.

There was definitely a lot of food for thought in this presentation. Stepping back from and dealing with challenging stakeholder behaviour requires emotional maturity. Definitely an area and topic that can be explored further with the next generation of project managers and project controls professionals.



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